'Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger' examines the Boston mob boss's life

Director Joe Berlinger's documentary includes interviews with those who worked with Bulger and the relatives of his murder victims.

Reuters
James J. 'Whitey' Bulger (pictured) is the subject of the documentary 'Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger.'

James J. “Whitey” Bulger was a South Boston mob boss responsible for decades of vicious crimes before he mysteriously vanished in 1994. Along with his longtime girlfriend, he was nabbed in 2014 in Santa Monica, Calif​.​, where he had been hiding in plain sight for years. Joe Berlinger’s documentary “Whitey: Unites States of America v. James J. Bulger” is mostly about the aftermath of​ this arrest. Bulger is not interviewed, although he is heard on audiotapes talking about his crimes – at 84, he is currently serving two consecutive life terms, plus five years.

But we hear from thugs like Kevin Weeks, an ex-bouncer and Bulger enforcer whose grand jury testimony fingered Bulger for his role in 19 murders. Some of the murder victims’ relatives, still fueled by rage, speak on camera. 

Berlinger is after more than a true crime recounting here – the film attempts to explain, often lucidly, sometimes laboriously, how deeply entrenched Bulger was with the FBI and the police. To save his neck, was he a longtime informant for the FBI? In this movie, corruption is rife on both sides of the blue line. Grade: B+ (Rated R for language and some crime scene images.)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.